“In a James Dickey Poem” by Dante Di Stefano

Dante Di Stefano


some teenage girl is always being fucked
in a barn or whipped
during a sermon

while some stewardess is always losing her clothes
as she falls through space
and it’s not the atmosphere’s fault

she’s disrobing
it’s just a conspiracy of aerodynamics
and we shouldn’t think

too deeply about it because maybe
after all the barn’s on fire
and the stewardess wanted this

particular type of plummeting
and this is only poetry for god’s sake
it’s not a constitutional amendment

or a confirmation hearing
that’s just to say, nothing’s at stake
except maybe beauty

and my allegiance to it
what does it say if we canonize
such fallings

and today I was reading my daughter
a poem
no that’s a lie

I was reading her a children’s book
about a pigeon
who didn’t want to take a bath

it was silly
but she cooed at the bright pages
and I was still thinking

about James Dickey
and how complicity is a freak beast
like a sheep-child in formaldehyde

and I want a world
where my little girl grows up
to rebuke the wind inside of poems

and testimonies and scriptures and laws
and newsfeeds and subcommittees
and will fashion a parachute

from the air inside her own bright lungs
and where she will not be fodder for any poem
but will be a poem herself in every atom of her intellect

from Poets Respond
September 25, 2018


Dante Di Stefano: “I wrote this poem while thinking about some troubling aspects of poets like James Dickey who I have admired for years, but I guess it’s really about the developments in Christine Blasey Ford’s story and the Brett Kavanaugh confirmation process, and the misogyny that is so much a part of American culture.”

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